This delightful book is set in the same world as A COLLEGE OF MAGICS, but can be read as a stand-alone. The focus of the story is the ancient Glasscastle University, a rival to Oxford or Cambridge, but where the curriculum consists of the learning, research and practice of magic. The time is slightly after the turn of the last century. It is a slightly different world--one where magic, if not commonplace, is certainly present.
Samuel Lambert's last job was as a sharpshooter at Kiowa Bob's Wild West Show. He is inivited to Glasscastle to use his shooting skills to help with a top-secret project the college is involved in. There, he meets Jane, who teaches mathematics at a women's college of magics in Normandy and who has traveled home to visit her sister. We see the events that unfold through Lambert's point of view, and while Lambert is very much a fish out of water as the American cowboy that almost everyone underestimates, his internal dialogue is a joy.
As you might suspect, sinister events take place, and our young couple is caught up in a whirlwind adventure.
The book is full of delightful settings and witty dialogue. I love coming across a throw-away line like this (referring to the college's dining hall):
"It was too hot that evening for the customary menu of meat and two vegetables, comprehensively boiled, but out of sheer habit, Lambert ate dinner in the hall just the same, right down to sampling the tray of cheeses offered as a final blow to the digestion."
Or this little bit as Lambert meets up with Jane:
"She was dressed in what Lambert could only assume was the latest Parisian mode, since he'd never seen anything quite as sleek in his life. Her hat alone must have cost a month's pay. Only high style could get away with doing that to a bird."
The book is full of goodies like these. And though a romance in the best sense of the word, it is long on plot and short on actual romantic scenes. However, the intrepid couple do have a moment or two. I expect Lambert will find a way to continue his wooing in the next book.
I highly recommend this little gem, and am greatly anticipating Stevermer's next book.--Suzanne (6 Apr 04)
Suzanne reviewed this so well that all I have to say is "ditto."
A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS is a little more restrained and less swashbuckling than A COLLEGE OF MAGICS, which is fitting considering the English academic setting. I didn't love it *quite* as much as the first book--but since A COLLEGE OF MAGICS is one of my Top Ten all-time favourite books, that's a very tiny criticism.--Danielle (8 Apr 04)
I also recommed A SCHOLAR OF MAGICS. I never read A COLLEGE OF MAGICS, but it didn't detract from the reading experience of this book at all. I've been very much in the mood for a Regency novel so enjoyed this Edwardian-style novel (close enough) immensely. I really think those who love Regency romances but never read fantasy novels should try this as their first walk on the magical side. Similarly, those who hate the slower style of the Regency may hate this. But for myself, I loved the characters, the witty and subtle remarks, the slow but steady escalation of the mystery, and even the slow, unknowing (to the participants) growth of friendship, liking, and attraction between the hero and heroine. Suzanne mentions a next book in this series in her comments. I hope this is true--I'd like to see more of this couple.--Linda (6 May 04)